Horror stands alone as a form of cinematic entertainment. Like a shot of adrenaline, the best examples are often measured by their ability to stimulate the senses. Rarely will one find Oscar-worthy monologues or painstaking character development. Even basic logic can be hard to come by, as movies like “Scream” point out. But that doesn’t matter, because horror movies aren’t overly concerned with logic or rationale. To put it as plainly as possible: entertainment is the point.
Great horror also functions as a cathartic outlet, and a streamlined one at that. Tapping into deeply rooted fears and desires, the genre cultivates a whirlwind of primitive indulgence. Viewers can experience the thrill of running from a monster or just barely surviving through the night. Thanks to the iconic POV shot, one can even step into the killer’s shoes on occasion. If there’s a pretext, it’s that audiences leave their lofty ideals and moral judgments at home. With an open mind (and empty stomach), one can strap into their seat and take a proverbial roller coaster ride. It’s no wonder that the genre has such a dedicated fan base.
That’s not to say horror goes short on symbolism or social commentary. On the contrary, many of the best horror films are filled to the brim with metaphor and prescient subtext. Jordan Peele’s blockbuster “Get Out” explores racism through the lens of historical hierarchies. The French film “Raw” uses cannibalism as a metaphor for pubescent urges, while Norway’s “Thelma” conjures psychokinetic power out of religious repression. Proto-slashers like “Psycho” are chock full of mommy issues and even “Halloween” retains a psychological edge.
Stacker compiled data on all horror movies to come up with a Stacker score, i.e., a weighted index split evenly between IMDb and Metacritic scores as of Oct. 8, 2021. To qualify, the film had to be listed as horror on IMDb, have a Metascore, and have at least 25,000 votes. Ties were broken by Metascore and further ties were broken by IMDb user rating. Because they don’t fall under the “horror” banner on IMDb, classics such as “Jaws,” “The Silence of the Lambs,” and “The Sixth Sense” didn’t make the list.
Every film that did make the list has been considered according to the cinematic history and development of horror. An exception was made on behalf of three essential horror movies, whose lack of a Metascore inaccurately reflects their place in film history: “Nosferatu,” “Diabolique,” and “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.” Each of these films has a Stacker score that reflects its respective IMDb user rating and has been ranked accordingly.
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